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COMMENT: Museveni’s useless courses


Why President’s flippant talk about curriculum suggests Uganda could soon get a University of Boda boda

COMMENT | JOSEPH WERE | I have written this article assuming that President Yoweri Museveni is serious when he says he is not happy to fund courses like psychology, political science, social science, and more that he bundles as the “useless arts”. Even if Museveni is serious, it does not mean he is right. But it means we can have a serious discussion on the serious matter of study courses or curriculum across the spectrum of education in Uganda. At the heart of it is a question: What is the purpose of school or education?

Cynics in Uganda might argue that schools exist to make money, partly because of the many unregulated private schools where teachers don’t teach and students don’t learn but walks away with a certificate.

At a slightly higher level, for Museveni, schools exist to create a labour force for businesses and factories. This view that schools are extensions of the human resource departments of businesses philosophically aligns with renowned Uganda educationist William Senteza Kajubi who was fixated on vocational education. Senteza Kajubi’s family motto was “Omulimu lyelinya lyomuntu” meaning “One is known for the job one does”. The pragmatist philosopher, John Dewey, argued the same way.

There are several possible reasons why Museveni is concerned about useless courses.  One is that he wants to deny that it is partly the job of his Education ministry to turn university graduates who cannot fend for themselves into useful members of society. To him, unemployed graduates are evidence that his education for putting potatoes in the pan plan is failing. He misses the point that even if all graduates got jobs, some would be lazy, corrupt, and anti-social.

Americans have perfected linking schooling to jobs through what they call the “corporate university”. They no longer wait for schools to produce the right worker. Instead, corporations become the school. But they only teach the skills they need. So coffee chain Starbucks offers Barista courses and McDonald’s has a Hamburger University. In line with this, Uganda would probably have a Boda-boda university.

In Uganda, corporations like UBL, MTN and more have programs for fresh graduates to do various jobs as they watch them like embryos in an in vitro clinic. The most promising are plucked up and pumped up with plum postings.

The trouble is that all vocations come to an end and nobody knows what the job market will be like when the current preschoolers enter the job market in 2050.  What happens to the bank ledger clerk when the ATM arrives, the watch repairer in a digital era, and telephone operator when people get mobile phones?


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